Thursday, 13 November 2008 @ 3.20pm
I first met Dad when I was 11 years old. He was an unsmiling, chain-smoking man who used to send and fetch Steph whenever she wanted to see me or spend the night at my house. The first few times I met him, I was terrified of him. But over time, I discovered he was a cheerful happy guy who always tried to make you laugh. He was extremely jovial.
I remember when Steph and I were about 13 years old, we were at her house. It was near Christmas time (I remember this because we were deciding what we could 'recycle' to give as gifts to Dad and Mum). Dad had left his cigarettes on the coffee table in the living room. We were trying to steal a few sticks so we could run to the back of the apartments to smoke it. Success! Hhehehe... Dad only found out when we told him what happened a few months ago. We also tried to impress him by cooking him and Mum spaghetti (Dad wasn't always around. He always had work or somewhere else to go). Remembering his "mmmm" we were happy, but now... he probably just said it to make us happy :)
When Mum and Dad split, Steph took it hard. She was Daddy's little girl. We were about 14 or 15 at the time. Being the best friend, I naturally took Steph's side. I started to get angry with Dad too. It was him who was making Mum cry. And him who was making her go out and drink more. Over the years, things got better. But I didn't see him again till I was about 18 or 19. Things were still tough because the air was still tense when Mum was there. Steph was trying to be diplomatic and please both sides. I was the shoulder she'd cry on when we went home later.
Since moving back to KL a few years ago, Steph started to spend more time with him. She started bringing me along too about two years ago. It was during CNY because he gave me ang pow. He told me to lose weight :) Then he said he was happy that I was Editor and laughed. He was back :)
Since then, Steph and I started to spend more time with him. For lunches and dinners, and just visitin ghim at his pub. He always told me jokes. And he always made me sit next to him. If there wasn't space, he told me to sit on his lap. Then told me to get off cause I was too heavy. A lot of times, he would just burst into song. And he made sure I never looked away. If I did, he'd just sing louder.
Steph and I were at his place one day and then he said, "Did you know I'm a Muslim? Yes. I converted five years ago." I knew. Steph told me she'd found some pictures of him getting married in some place in Arab or somewhere. That woman was long gone then. But he told me the whole history of Islam and the good and the bad.
Two nights ago, Dad passed away. The only chance I got to say bye one last time was when I saw his body in the 'rumah mayat'. He was wrapped except for his face. It looked like he had a smile on his face. I didn't really wanna see. I was waiting outside when Steph and Mum went inside. Then Steph sent me a text saying, "wanna see Dad one last time?" Under the sheet, he was still wearing the hospital gown. They wanted us to see him before they washed and wrapped him. We went outside again and got to reminiscing...
I got to eat his fish curry. Steph and I annoyed him so much in the kitchen of his restaurant while he was making us fresh durian pancakes that he chased us out (we were constantly asking him all the names of the spices we saw, but before he could answer we were already asking about the next one). We got to celebrate his last birthday with him this year. He introduced me to everyone as his daughter. When Steph gave a grumpy face, he'd say, "oh, this is my adopted daughter." About Steph! :)
There was once I went along with Steph to pick him up. He didn't know I was coming. He saw Steph and just walked to the passenger side. When he saw me, his face lit up and he started clapping like a little kid :) Steph still tells everyone and (jokingly I hope) hits me about it.
It never really hit me that he was gone until they were loading him on the trolley to be placed into the van. On the way to the kubur, Steph and I broke down a few times. Mum was taking photos (we were following directly behind the van in a row of about 12 cars). It only felt final when the Earth's soil was covering him. There were endless tears. Dad's brother was inconsolable. And Dad's granddaughter almost fainted when we were saying prayers.
He was called Sulaiman. And I will forever regret cancelling that fishing trip with him and Steph. We were supposed to go to Penang and eat to our heart's content. I guess Steph and I will be eating on his part now.